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Diversity Catwalk

Diversity Catwalk

Diversity Catwalk

2015 is a really exciting time to be living in the world. We're seeing cutting-edge advances in technology, long haul travel is easier than ever and there is no longer a set social "norm". Ten years ago, gay marriage and three parent babies were practically unheard of and now we barely bat an eyelid at the idea.


Recently I've been keeping an eye on the catwalks - another area set to be revolutionised in 2015 - and it's got off to a very good start. At 2014's New York Fashion Week, gracing the hallowed runways of fashion, we saw the first wheelchair-bound model, Dr Danielle Sheypuk, and this year, the first model with Down Syndrome, Jamie Brewer made her debut. Brewer showcased designer Carrie Hammer's Autumn/Winter '15 collection as part of her "role models not runway models" campaign - a movement to diversify the modelling world, using inspirational women of all shapes, sizes and abilities to model her line. Hammer says she creates her clothes to fit the women, rather than requiring the women to fit the clothes. I don't know about you but I find this utterly refreshing.

Dr Sheypuk, who also won Miss Wheelchair New York in 2012, is a renowned psychologist and Jamie Brewer is an actress in television series 'American Horror Story'.

The good news doesn't stop there. Barcelona label Desigual had Canadian model Chantelle Winnie strutting her stuff. Winnie was diagnosed with vitaligo, the same skin disorder as Michael Jackson, when she was only four years old. She has overcome incessant bullying and years of rejection from the fashion world and has now achieved her dream of becoming an international model in demand.

Chantelle Winnie, the It girl of diversity in the fashion world

Chantelle Winnie, the It girl of diversity in the fashion world

 

And let's not forget the rise of plus size models à la Ashley Graham successfully making waves all over the modelling world.

Inevitably, critics are complaining that it's too late for all this to be happening. That may be, but I'm not a believer in regretting the past. Better late than never, right? These examples of diversity on the runway are not only great in themselves, but have the potential to transform the wider issue of negative body image amongst girls in general - an issue which reaches far beyond the spotlight-adorned walls of New York Fashion Week.

The Council on Size and Weight Discrimination reports that, in the USA, 80% of 10-year-old girls have dieted and 90% of high school junior and senior women diet regularly. Studies show that young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents. These figures surely have not been helped by the "six foot, size tiny" stereotype which has been plaguing the fashion world for years. With people like Miranda Kerr and Taylor Swift being idols of the moment, it's easy to understand the correlation we make in our minds; tall + skinny = success and happiness. How much harder this universal struggle with body image becomes for women like our models above, who are faced with a daily fight against other forms of discrimination.

What a relief, therefore, that things seem to be changing up, and the iconic New York Fashion Week is possibly the best place for that to happen, it being on such a global platform. Beauty is not an objective measure and it is shameful that society has been treating it as such for so many years.

But the acceptance of diversity is not merely an issue confined to the catwalks. We need to be embracing it on a smaller scale too, within our communities. In the UK, a 13 year old girl has, at six foot, overcome insecurity and years of bullying to win a county wide beauty pageant. This is a wonderful example of how we can revolutionise the standards of the fashion world on a small scale and support the efforts of those like Carrie Hammer, trying to do the same ‘under the tents’ of the industry.

Marilyn Monroe famously said "beauty and femininity are ageless and cannot be contrived, and glamour cannot be manufactured”. It’s all about accepting the body you have and making the decision to love it. Of course, that's a lot easier said than done but hopefully with pioneers in the fashion world helping to scrap the idea of the "perfect" stereotype, we can all help each other to realise the precious  beauty in our diversity.


I'm feeling hopeful!


Anna is currently spending the fourth year of her Law degree in France, studying for a Masters in French Law at the University of Rennes. She is slightly obsessed with learning languages, having knowledge of French, Spanish, Portuguese and a little Russian under her belt so far. Alongside her studies, Anna tutors English to foreign students. Fascinated by different cultures and how they interlink, Anna recently took herself off to live in Morocco for a month. In her minimal spare time, Anna likes to read, run, eat, go to church, travel, discover beautiful countryside and improve her classical singing. She also believes that, in the words of Newton Faulkner, people should smile more.


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